Reykjavik, Iceland just might be the greenest city in the world. Reykjavik acquires only 19% of its primary energy, used in transportation and heating, from fossil fuel sources, and the rest of the energy comes from geothermal and hydrogen power – both renewable sources. What’s even more impressive, however, is that Reykjavik gets 100% of its electricity from geothermal and hydrogen power (25% from geothermal and 75% from hydrogen). With 100% of its electricity and more than 80% of its primary energy being derived from renewable sources, it would be hard for any other city to claim to be more sustainable than Reykjavik. Reykjavik also provides the world with a glowing example of how a city should be powered, and how cities around the world can be powered in the future.
What makes Reykjavik case so interesting, though, is that its transition away from fossil fuels began in 1907 when a farmer began running steam from a hot spring below his farm up through a pipe and into his house to heat it. Soon after, other farmers began doing the same thing, and by 1930, Reykjavik began laying down a system of mass distribution of hot spring water to heat homes naturally and efficiently. The framework for Reykjavik geothermal heating system took off more significantly in the 1940’s, but it was not until the oil crisis of 1970 that city officials began really searching for a viable alternative to fossil fuels and began investing heavily in geothermal and hydrogen energy. Developers searched for new geothermal sites, such as hot springs, and built pipelines from newly discovered sites into towns, villages, farms and cities.
It is that very framework that was begun in the early twentieth century that has led to Reykjavik, and Iceland’s, sustainability and prosperity today. By switching from fossil fuel energy to geothermal energy, it is estimated that Iceland has saved more than $8 billion over the last three decades. What’s even more amazing is that Iceland’s Natural Energy Authority estimates that Iceland is using only 20-25% of its hydropower capacity and only 20% of its geothermal capacity.